It was another winless week for Oxford United as Karl Robinson’s side fell to defeat against Portsmouth before picking up a late point at MK Dons.
There was some positive contract news but also some negative injury news in what was another busy week at the club.
Oxford United Weekly Round-Up: Winless Week, Contract News and Injury Concerns
Winless Week at Oxford United
With games coming thick and fast, Oxford United are now winless in their last four games. Last week, Karl Robinson’s side fell to defeat to Tranmere Rovers in the Football League Trophy before a goalless draw at Ipswich in the league.
This week, Oxford suffered another midweek loss, this time in the League against Portsmouth, before picking up a point late on at MK Dons in a 1-1 draw.
Oxford were slow to get their game going in both fixtures. Against Pompey, it took until second-half stoppage time for the U’s to create their best opportunities but goalkeeper Craig MacGillivray denied Mide Shodipo when one-on-one and Elliott Moore’s looping header in stoppage time.
It was a similar story at Stadium MK on Saturday. Again, the U’s fell behind but the best chances came towards the end of the match. Dan Agyei saw an effort saved and Anthony Forde struck the post, but in the seventh minute of stoppage time, Elliot Lee headed home from close range.
Despite the recent dip in form, Oxford find themselves just four points outside the playoffs ahead of home games against league leaders Peterborough United and 12th placed Charlton Athletic.
While Oxford still have an alarming number of players out of contract in the summer, the club did manage to tie down on of their key players this week.
Goalkeeper Jack Stevens has penned a new three-and-a-half-year deal at Grenoble Road. The 23-year-old, who came up through the club’s academy, has been Simon Eastwood’s understudy for the past five years but has come into the first-team picture since December and steadied the U’s defence.
However, Josh Ruffels, Alex Rodriguez Gorrin and James Henry are among the key players that are out of contract in the summer, although the latter two have the option for an additional year.
Before the U’s kicked off against Portsmouth, manager Karl Robinson revealed that on-loan Nottingham Forest midfielder Marcus McGuane was in danger of missing the rest of the season. On Thursday, he confirmed the news.
The 22-year-old suffered a thigh injury in a win over Bristol Rovers in January but is required to go on a 12-week recovery programme following scans and consultation after suffering complications.
Speaking to the club’s official website, Robinson said: “We are gutted for Marcus because he had been doing so well for us and was having a major impact on our season.
“He is a good lad and had settled in here really well off the pitch. On it, he has that same power in midfield that we had last season with Shandon Baptiste, and then with Marcus Browne when we moved him back there.
“We have players with other qualities and we will adapt but all we can do is hope he makes a full and speedy recovery.”
On Saturday, striker Sam Winnall replaced Matty Taylor in the second half but lasted just seven minutes. Robinson confirmed after the game that the forward had picked up an ankle injury but added it was too early to give a timeframe on his absence.
‘Mr Oxford United’ – Ruffels Reaches 300 Appearances
There was a positive news story this week after Josh Ruffels reached 300 club appearances in the defeat against Portsmouth.
Despite being born in Oxford, he came through the ranks at Coventry City but managed just two appearances before joining his hometown club in 2013.
Ruffels has played under four different managers and three different owners during his time at the club, even playing in two different positions. He started his career as a central midfielder but, in particular under Karl Robinson, has become a converted left-back.
Of his 301 appearances, 138 have come under the management of Robinson, having been a bit-part player for much of his tenure at the club before his arrival in 2018.